The further literature is driven to the outskirts of the culture, the more it is cherished as a sanctuary from everything coarse, shallow and meretricious in that culture. It is the chapel of profundity, and about as lively and well visited as a bricks-and-mortar chapel to boot. Literature is where you retreat when you’re sick of celebrity divorces, political mudslinging, office intrigues, trials of the century, new Apple products, internet flame wars, sexting and X Factor contestants – in short, everything that everybody else spends most of their time thinking and talking about.
If these two missions seem incompatible, that’s because they are. To encompass both, as Wallace aimed to do, you must be able to derive the Timeless from a series of frivolous Nows, and then you have to persuade your readers that you have given them what they want by presenting them with what they were trying to get away from when they came to you in the first place.